$1 billion land takeover
ENERGY: Three wind farm projects worth $1.1 billion reinforce the region’s reputation and boost the manufacturing
By NORMAN DE BONO, The London Free Press
A $1.1-billion wind farm development slated for Southwestern Ontario would be the largest of its type in the province and cement the region’s reputation as a wind energy centre.
Next Era Energy, North America’s largest energy company, is proposing to build three wind farm projects in Lambton and Huron counties. Combined, they’d dwarf other farms — adding up to 300 wind turbines to the landscape and generating 490 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 144,000 homes.
“It is a significant investment — a very significant investment,” Josie Hernandez, spokesperson for Next Era, based in Florida, said Tuesday.
“It (the cost) can range that high — this is very expensive to develop.”
The developments would also bring manufacturing jobs, since Next Era will buy either General Electric or Siemens turbines and has made it clear it wants to buy local — pressing the manufacturers to open plants here, said Hernandez.
“We are a leader in wind energy development. We have a good relationship with turbine manufacturers and we will work with them to make sure they set up here locally,” she said.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANWEA) estimates one megawatt (MW) of wind power costs $2.3 million to develop, putting the total for the three Next Era projects at more than $1.1 billion.
But as large as the development is, it’s a sign of what’s to come as wind projects ramp up across Ontario, said Robert Hornung, the CANWEA president.
“It is a significant development, but it is also indicative of what we are seeing. The Next Era project is not yet signed, but we already have 1,500 megawatts that are signed and will be under construction soon,” he said. “We will see a number of developments in Ontario over the next few years.”
CANWEA projects Ontario will generate 12,000 MW of power from wind by 2015, compared to 3,500 today.
Over the next six years about 1,000 MW of wind power are expected to be added to the power grid each year.
Get used to wind project developments, Hornung said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm now about developing wind power in Ontario.”
Murray Stewart, president of the Energy Council of Canada, agreed, saying Next Era’s “is a big development and there are a lot more on the horizon.”
He also credited Ontario’s Green Energy Act and its feed-in tariff program — it pays a fixed amount to businesses providing energy to the grid, and the rates for sustainable energy ensure a profit — with spurring development.
“There is no question the FIT makes it easier for suppliers and developers to come here — they get a good, long-term contract and a good market,” he said.
Ontario’s largest wind farms now generate about 200 MW of power, a third of the total Next Era is proposing for Lambton and Huron.
Under Next Era’s plans, wind turbines would be added to the landscape from Watford, through South Huron and up to Huron East, just south of Bayfield.
“We have been looking here for some time and now, with the FIT program, this is the time for development,” said Hernandez.
Next Era also has wind farms in Quebec and Nova Scotia and is proposing others for Ontario, including the Bornish project for Parkhill that will see 50 turbines generating 75 MW of power, another in Wellington County with 25 turbines and 12 more turbines in Grey County.
“We look at the wind, how it blows and there are great wind resource here,” said Hernandez.
The only real hurdle for Next Era, she believes, is the inability for Ontario’s power grid to take more energy. But the Ontario government has projects slated to increase the energy capacity.
Next Era will hold a public information meeting Wednesday on the developments and carry out environmental impact studies. It’s looking to ease public concerns over health issues surrounding turbine developments.
“We know there are people with concerns, but we bring experts in the field to show we want a responsible development. These open houses are designed to offer as much information as possible, to understand concerns, be aware and respond to them,” Hernandez said.
If Next Era’s proposal is approved by the Ontario Power Authority, it may get the nod by mid-2011 and the turbine blades could be turning by spring 2012.
Next Era has 9,000 turbines across North America, the continent’s largest wind industry.
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Location: Huron East, southeast of Bayfield.
Capacity: 90 MW
Wind turbines: 60 or 39, depending on style used.
Location: South Huron, outside of Grand Bend
Capacity: 160 MW
Wind turbines: 106 or 69
Location: Thedford to Watford
Capacity: 230 MW
Wind turbines: 153 or 100
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ABOUT NEXT ERA ENERGY
Headquartered in Juno Beach, Fla., it had 2009 revenue of more than $15 billion US, nearly 43,000 MW of generating capacity and more than 15,000 employees in 27 U.S. states and Canada. It supplies all types of energy, including wind, solar and nuclear.
- What: To discuss details of the proposed wind energy projects.
- When: Wednesday, June 30, 5 to 8 p.m.
- Where: Kimble Hall, 6276 Townsend Line., Forest.
ONLINE INFORMATION: www.canadianwindproposals.com
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